ONYCHEK.com is an eCommerce platform making luxury fashion of Made in Africa brands easily accessible to the world. The platform is founded by a team of young Africans who are passionate about what African fashion can do and celebrate the creative minds of African designers.
We had the opportunity to email interview the Founder of Onychek.com, Chekwas Okafor, who’s part of the Africans Building Africa Community.
- Tell us about yourself and your organization
My name is Chekwas Okafor, the founder of ONYCHEK.com, an Upstate New York based ecommerce platform for luxury fashion made in Africa. We take the “made in Africa” seriously. We only stock brands that make their products in Africa because we believe that by doing this, we will increase demand for those products, and in other to meet those demands, creates jobs in Africa. I see fashion made in Africa as a big vehicle for creating jobs and preserving culture.
We currently stock brands like Maxhosa by Laduma (South Africa), Adele Dejak (Kenya), ENZI (Ethiopia), ZASHADU (Nigeria). We launched in September 2016.
Also, we hold these product in New York, so our US customers receive their products within 3-5 days of placing their order.
- How much did you need to start your organization and how were you able to raise that capital?
As most entrepreneurs, I underestimated the cost of starting the business, but in order to fund it, I withdrew money from my retirement account and have been bootstrapping since.
- What are some of the challenges you face in your organization and how do you overcome those challenges?
We faced some typical ecommerce challenge where customers would like to feel the products before they buy. To overcome this, we are planning pop ups so potential customers can feel the quality of the products.
Also we faced some unique challenges since African Luxury Fashion, as we know it, is relatively new. A lot of people are not quite familiar with these brands yet, so there can be a little hesitation to buy. This challenge was expected, so we are trying to get potential customers familiar with these brands by focusing on content creation through out blog, THEINSIGHT.
- Where do you see your organization in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
We like to be the #1 destination to access all luxury brands making their products in Africa. To do this, we are learning more about our customer and what they like. We are adding more designers to increase the variety, and we are listening to customers to make sure we are creating an experience that will keep them coming back.
- What advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to start a business in Africa?
Challenges tend to be unique to different businesses, so it can be misleading to give an blanket advice. In regards to what has helped me, being purpose minded has been invaluable.The idea of aligning oneself with purpose, especially when the purpose is in service to others, can prove to be very helpful. Doing this doesn’t make the journey any easier, it just makes it a lot more enjoyable and fun. The nuances and challenges of starting a business in Africa or any other place in the world, then become less daunting. When one has fun and enjoys doing what they are doing, they become more creative in finding solutions to problems. These solutions are what move companies from point A to point B.
- How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
This is in the core of our existence. Our purpose as a company is to create jobs and preserve culture through fashion. This is why we only work with brands making their product in Africa. This was a challenging decision as there are some really good African designers that are based in the diaspora, so by default, we don’t stock them. We want to play an active role in the Africa Rising rhetoric by focusing on African made products. Also by doing this, we will be forced to solve unique infrastructural problems that challenges the viability of “made in Africa.” This is the hard road. This is what we chose.
LinkedIn: Chekwas Okafor